From the authors of the bestselling The Big Shift, a provocative argument that the global population will soon begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political, and economic landscape.
For half a century, statisticians, pundits, and politicians have warned that a burgeoning planetary population will soon overwhelm the earth's resources. But a growing number of experts are sounding a different kind of alarm. Rather than growing exponentially, they argue, the global population is headed for a steep decline.
Throughout history, depopulation was the product of catastrophe: ice ages, plagues, the collapse of civilizations. This time, however, we're thinning ourselves deliberately, by choosing to have fewer babies than we need to replace ourselves. In much of the developed and developing world, that decline is already underway, as urbanization, women's empowerment, and waning religiosity lead to smaller and smaller families. In Empty Planet, Ibbitson and Bricker travel from South Florida to Sao Paulo, Seoul to Nairobi, Brussels to Delhi to Beijing, drawing on a wealth of research and firsthand reporting to illustrate the dramatic consequences of this population decline--and to show us why the rest of the developing world will soon join in.
They find that a smaller global population will bring with it a number of benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages; good jobs will prompt innovation; the environment will improve; the risk of famine will wane; and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women. But enormous disruption lies ahead, too. We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on healthcare and social security. The United States is well-positioned to successfully navigate these coming demographic shifts--that is, unless growing isolationism and anti-immigrant backlash lead us to close ourselves off just as openness becomes more critical to our survival than ever before.
Rigorously researched and deeply compelling, Empty Planet offers a vision of a future that we can no longer prevent--but one that we can shape, if we choose.
The world faces not an overpopulation crisis but a birth dearth that will reshape civilization, according to this arresting and contrarian look at the planet's demographic future. Bricker, CEO of the research firm Ipsos Public Affairs, and journalist Ibbitson, authors of The Big Shift, critique the United Nations model that predicts world population will grow from 7.6 billion today to 11.2 billion by 2100; they instead cite demographers who foresee global population peaking at 9 billion by 2060, then shrinking to 7 billion (and falling) by 2100. They point to two main causes of the coming cull: urbanization, which makes children's labor less valuable, and above all feminism, which encourages women to pursue education and careers instead of early childbearing. The authors interview people from Brussels to Nairobi who are planning on having just one or two kids, below the replacement rate. The authors see pros (less resource depletion) and cons (stagnating economies, fewer workers to support pensioners, extinction of small cultures, loneliness) in the population bust and predict the collapse of an aging China and the resurgence of the U.S. if it embraces immigrants. Lucid, trenchant, and very readable, the authors' arguments upend consensus ideas about everything from the environment to immigration; the result is a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom.